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TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

What, you really thought I wouldn't include one of these? As if!


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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 76: October 1992



part 5/5



The Living City: We've already had a ghost dragon, a skeleton dragon, and multiple swords of dragon slaying in this issue. Now we have an actual living dragon in Raven's Bluff, making this issue particularly heavy on the game's namesake. Eormennoth is a middle-aged bronze dragon who through an extended series of events involving living in the area even before the city was founded, has wound up the city's treasurer. This causes the rest of the government a considerable amount of stress due to questions of how much of the treasure in the vaults is his personal hoard and how much is public funds, made worse by them not agreeing on a precise salary, so he's been gradually transferring over what he thinks is a fair price for services rendered over the decades without any oversight. To be fair, he is both very effective at stopping any would-be treasury thieves and curbing piracy in the general vicinity of the city, so the city council have no immediate desire to fight him, but they're aware that they could face an awkward budget shortfall any time, particularly if he ever attracts a mate and has kids, and are planning accordingly. A fairly amusing look at what happens when realpolitik meets powerful creatures with considerably longer lifespan than human, this definitely looks like it has lots of adventure possibilities whether you side with the dragon, the human parts of the government, are caught in the middle, or are more rogueish PC's who think they can pull off a big heist on everyone involved. It won't please the letter writers who want Raven's Bluff to be more grounded and largely occupied by 0 level characters, but for people who want the fantastical elements fully integrated into the setting, and not just monsters you go out to slay without thinking about how they'd make human society differ from the real life medieval era, it's pretty pleasing to see.



Wolff & Byrd discover what happens when a PC meets their player. It could definitely have gone a lot worse.



Bloodmoose & Company engage in a little morse code, which unfortunately proves to be time-consuming and not a very effective means of communication with lots of false positives.



With a particularly high quantity of themed material and interesting crunchy stuff, this was a decently above average issue that was pretty easy to get through. Let's head onto the next one and see if they can sustain any momentum, or it was merely the disproportionate number of horror submissions they get that pushed things upwards temporarily.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 77: November 1992



part 1/5



34 pages. Polyhedron once again proves they're operating under considerably laxer editorial standards than the rest of TSR, as they can put some full-frontal underwater nudity on the cover, not even barely covered by a convenient veil or bit of passing seaweed. I wonder how the letters page will respond to that in a few issues time. It is at least in theme, as it looks like we're taking advantage of Raven's Bluff's coastal location again inside. Let's find out how gratuitous the contents of this issue are.



Convention Sights: Some photos from Aloha Con, predictably in hawaii, and the somewhat closer to home Glathricon, Indiana fill out the inside cover. There's some very large game boards, people using tape measures to determine movement, and someone using their computer to run a game as well, which is a lot trickier to fit at the table than it would be now. Can't beat a sturdy laptop if you want to save time setting up and breaking down between tournament slots.



Notes From HQ: Last issue, they were complaining about people not filling in their post-tournament assessment forms properly. This time they're complaining about people not telling them when they move house, then getting really angry months later after they've missed a load of issues. We've seen that plenty of times before, and I'm sure we'll do so again, for human stupidity is ever with us. The rest of it is slightly more interesting, as it talks about their current standards & desires for submissions. More non AD&D stuff please! Short fiction is a Dragon thing, not a Polyhedron thing, do you even, like, read the publication you're submitting too or just spam it everywhere? Raven's Bluff stuff is more likely to be accepted if it's connected to previous entries in some way. Adventures need to be tournament-friendly - ie completable in less than 4 hours, or broken into chunks with obvious convenient breakpoints for multi-round ones, so size them accordingly. Spells, monsters, magic items, convention anecdotes are all good though. Nothing you couldn't have figured out by reading regularly for years, but some people need it spelled out, just like they do with the bureaucracy. Let's hope enough are paying attention to push their submissions in the direction they'd prefer.



Letters: The first letter questions the logistics of sending adventures in and running them without the original writer. This is standard. There are lots of conventions around the world, and the same adventure might be used in several of them (although hopefully their membership system tracks who's already played what, so a particular person can't grind the same adventure by playing it multiple times in different places) Gen Con is just the tip of the iceberg. If you specifically say you're going to a certain convention and want to GM an adventure you wrote, they'll try to accommodate it, but no promises, particularly if you make the request last minute.

Second and third defend Polyhedron against the complaints of the anonymous hordes. The RPGA has improved and grown a great deal over the years, and gives excellent bang for it's buck as entertainment. The comedy elements of the adventures may be silly, but they're fun! The desire to have fun in the moment definitely seems more important to them than any kind of consistent worldbuilding, which isn't surprising when you start with new pregens every module and only gradually introduce any elements of campaign play.

Finally, another set of opinions on handling groups with widely divergent ages. Avoid stereotyping on both sides of the divide, remember you can try a group for a week or two and then drop out without fighting if things aren't working out. Don't segregate the RPGA into age groups, as it means people will have less opportunities to learn from each other, and result in a big culture shock when they do move up a division. Nothing too controversial.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 77: November 1992



part 2/5



The Everwinking Eye: Having shown us enough of how depressing Mulmaster is to live in, Ed shows us that the rest of the Moonsea isn't much better, and fighting amongst themselves is the main thing that keeps them from being more of a danger to the rest of the Realms. The Zhentarim might be the most famous group with imperialist ambitions, but Melvaunt's masters have proven able to match them in both military and espionage skills, leading to an uneasy detente between them. There's plenty of nonhuman dangers as well, with enough monsters that the settlements will remain heavily fortified for the foreseeable future even if the humans got along, and miserable weather into the bargain. If it weren't for the plentiful metal reserves to be mined and sold, they probably wouldn't bother, and would be much less able to defend themselves if they had to import all their armour & weapons anyway. The only real place of safety if you're a good guy is the elven court, protected from marauders by powerful magic, and for that you'll need an inside ally to get through the defences. So there's plenty of challenges to be faced up here, but it's not hopeless, and there's plenty of rewards if you're smart and tough enough to take them. You need both the carrot and the stick to make a setting truly engaging, and Ed provides plenty of both here. As usual, I can definitely see why people would flock to his world over the other ones TSR is trying to sell. The right combination of the familiar and dangerous is a tricky thing to balance, and he seems to be the best at it.



Downunder The Living City: Near the start of the year, we had an adventure where the PC's had to deal with the consequences of a stolen river being diverted through a portal on the ecosystem. Now they reuse the idea, only it's underwater. The water level might only be dropping by an inch a day, which would take years to drain the sea of fallen stars completely, but that's still fast enough for the people in charge of Raven's Bluff to notice and send adventurers to deal with the problem. The adventure itself is not nearly as big despite the potentially even more catastrophic stakes, as it's another linear one of half a dozen scenes that'll fit easily into their 4 hour timeslots, half of which are played for comedy, and some extra railroading to make absolutely certain you don't get to keep the magical portal once you find it, as that's the kind of thing that would enable you to do weird things to short-circuit future tournament railroads. It's all very formulaic indeed, and once again illustrates the conservatism working within a shared setting forces upon their design processes. Another one that would need vast amounts of expansion to truly do justice to the actually pretty epic core premise for a home campaign where you're not so limited. Just think of all the cool stuff you could uncover as the water level slowly sinks, including previously submerged dungeons, and the political wrangling that would take place as it spun out over months or years growing increasingly desperate. Then you have an Endgame-esque situation if you manage to stop the drain, but are still left with considerably less water in the world, and trying to bring it back without causing more massive devastation in the initial deluge of it's return. This is just incredibly underwhelming when I think of what could have been done with the idea.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 77: November 1992



part 3/5



Weather Report for Krynn: Not often that you get Dragonlance material in here. Krynn is somewhat smaller than earth, and it's most inhabited continent is in the southern hemisphere. This means the weather patterns are not quite what you would expect, winds go around the world faster, and extremes of temperature are more common with less mass to buffer things. Not that this is particularly heavy on the hard science (you'd need to have a massively denser core to have the same surface gravity & retain an atmosphere at that size, which would have all kinds of knock-on effects, and we already know Spelljammer intentionally avoids even trying to emulate that kind of technical stuff.) but at least they're trying to have interesting weather effects happen a bit more frequently than earth to make it more challenging for adventurers. The kind of thing mostly interesting due to the novelty, and also in comparing it to Dragon 68's similar article on Greyhawk weather. (which is probably the superior one of the two as it's more detailed) Now if only they'd at least try to give other campaigns worlds the same kind of attention they do to the Realms in here.



They've plugged Winter Fantasy twice already trying to get people involved with their Raven's Bluff elections. Now we get to see the preregistration form in the centre. 7 different AD&D events and 5 for other systems, as usual leaving no doubt about who's in charge. 7 are single round, 5 have two, evidently they're not big enough for any truly epic contests. Dawn Patrol is apparently still alive & kicking even though we haven't got any articles for it published in years. Shadowrun & Star Wars have joined the now familiar Gamma World & Call of Cthulhu as the next most popular also-rans. Boot Hill & Gangbusters are dead again despite recent new editions, and Buck Rogers never even stood a chance. Which games will fight for their place next year? I'll keep my eye out for more of these little snapshots.



The Living Galaxy: After several years of advice on building various types of settings, Roger finally decides to try his hand at a prefab adventure. (while showing all his working, of course) He decides a colony on a Pluto-like planet would be a good place to set an adventure focussing on isolation, claustrophobia and paranoia. Visitors don't come along very often, and when they do, it's a big deal. Everyone's eager for news and whatever amenities you might have they can't make themselves. If you're good you get lots of … er, … opportunities to keep their gene pool from growing stagnant. If you make a bad first impression or something goes wrong, all the tropes involving small towns that are suspicious of outsiders come into play. On top of that, there's secret government shenanigans going on that most of the citizens aren't aware of, which will hopefully be the meat of the plot in the next instalment. This all seems interestingly dark, and not railroaded like their tournament adventures or D&D only like Dungeon's output. But setting building is easier than coming up with a plan that survives contact with the PC's. Let's see if he can stick the landing next time.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 77: November 1992



part 4/5



Into The Dark: Oh god. An entire column devoted to Fu Manchu movies? What a theme to pick. He's certainly appeared in plenty of media over the years, but a lot of it has dated … very poorly indeed. This definitely seems like it has the potential for large amounts of cringe. Going into this one with high levels of trepidation.

The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu is the first, and as usual for a franchise, one of the better instalments. It still looks pretty clunky by modern standards though, as it was made right on the cusp of talking becoming a thing in movies, and they hadn't really got the hang of recording & delivering dialog yet. At least fully silent films have a style all their own, so they ironically seem less dated when viewed now.

The Mask of Fu Manchu sees Boris Karloff do his best with the material he's given as usual, but since that writing leans full tilt into the most racist parts of the source material, that might not be a good thing. The tonal shifts where they replaced directors midway through and did reshoots to lighten things up are also fairly obvious. Definitely having Josstice League flashbacks reading about this.

The Face of Fu Manchu is the first film from the 60's revival series starring Christopher Lee. It's less racist than the 30's ones, but looking at the whiteness of the cast that's still not saying much. It does at least make Fu competent as an antagonist right up to the climax, where it all falls apart and feels like they ran out of money. Still doesn't manage to make it seem like something I'd actually enjoy watching.

The Blood of Fu Manchu is the 4th Christopher Lee one, and diminishing returns & continuity errors not only with the previous films, but within this one are really creeping in. The director is an exploitation B-movie one, so the amount of gratuitous gore and nudity is way up as well. If you really want to watch it, you can go in knowing it's not for the story.

The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu is an utterly dire parody starring Peter Sellers and produced by Hugh Hefner, of all people. A surprisingly classy cast is convinced to appear in it, and then wasted on poorly written crude humour. It managed to kill his cinematic career all the way up to 2007, when Nick Cage stepped into the moustache in the similarly tongue-in-cheek but somewhat better Grindhouse. Did anyone really miss him?



The Living City: The Raven's Bluff material once again concentrates on high magic stuff that might be handy for adventurers. A beauty shop run by a powerful illusionist might repel macho idiots, but smarter PC's will see the value in magically disguising themselves for all kinds of larcenous purposes, and she's no slouch with mundane makeup techniques either. If you've got the GP, you can easily change your hair, facial features, even apparent race, (but not sex, because that's ridiculously hard (and even harder to turn back) in AD&D for depressing transphobic reasons) making it much easier to adopt new identities, infiltrate places and get away with it afterwards. As usual, she's got a teenage daughter who's learned the basics of the trade, but chafes at the everyday routine of the job and will take very little persuading to join up with your adventuring party and earn some XP. If your campaign is less about the dungeon delving and more about the social engineering shenanigans, you could definitely get a fair amount of use out of this one. So as is often the case, the attitudes are a little dated, but it's still got plenty of useful detail to draw upon and maybe tweak for your own campaign. I can deal with that.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 77: November 1992



part 5/5



Enigma: This month's competition is another stat the picture one. A woman with one half of her face attractive, the other rotting, dressed in egyptian-looking garb. I'm guessing we'll see a lot of greater mummies, with a few liches and vampires into the bargain, maybe one that's still living but cursed. Can someone come up with both good stats and backstory? See you in 6 months or so.



Cutting Remarks: As they do fairly often around this time of year, they have a crossword puzzle for us. Another chunky heavily interlinked one, full of nerdy references. Some are easy, but others are dated or obtuse enough that google is no help. Definitely going to have to wait until next issue to see the whole picture here.



The Bard's Corner: It's been a while since we had a comedy routine in here. A pair of gamers are talking about their exploits in a restaurant. The other people present think they're talking about a real event and call the police. The police hear them talking about their collection of in-game assault weapons and call a SWAT team. This of course turns out to be a big waste of time. The kind of thing that loses it's funniness when you're aware that if they'd been darker-skinned, the cops would have shot first and asked questions not at all, ands also that this kind of militarised policing is mostly a USA exclusive thing that wouldn't have happened elsewhere. Knowing that, this becomes much darker gallows humour. But of course, the RPGA is so white it virtually glows, and it'll be a long time before the internet lets more diverse voices spread their life experiences to wide audiences, so they can carry on obliviously making casual jokes like this for a good decade longer.



Bloodmoose & Company find they have some ridiculously overinflated debts from their recent criminal activities to pay off.



One of those issues that falls on the interestingly bad end of the spectrum overall, showing how their smaller number of contributors & readers leads to laxer editorial standards. Will that ever change, or will it continue to be a hallmark of the newszine right up to the point they merge it with Dungeon, or even beyond if the departments stay separate even when they share a spine? Another of those questions it'll take a long time to answer, and even longer if I don't keep my foot on the gas pedal. Let's see if next issue will go smoothly enough to accelerate through.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 38: Nov/Dec 1992



part 1/5



66 pages. The cover once again spoils the big twist of at least one of the adventures inside. Pod people! How very 50's of them. Better watch out, or part of the party'll be replaced and then paranoia will really set in. Just how easy to spot and powerful will the replacements be, and how elaborate are their plans? Let's crank up the tremolo and blast some surf licks and see if it helps me get through this one any quicker.



Editorial: Polyhedron regularly spends 6+ months between talking about a competition and publishing the results, and more than a few have simply died a quiet death due to lack of submissions. By contrast, Dungeon gave us a survey last issue, and already has enough results in to be confident in the overall opinions of their readership. Unfortunately, it turns out the average reader is more conservative than the TSR writers, and a surprisingly large proportion want nothing to do with terrains where they might encounter darker-skinned humans. Adventures involving real world diversity will continue to be thin on the ground for the foreseeable future. Psionics will also continue to be a niche topic for the rest of the edition. The average age also skews somewhat higher than Dragon, with a mean in the 20's rather than the teens. A somewhat dispiriting start that reminds us that the TSR staff tried a lot of things their audience responded too with a resounding meh, forcing them to go back to the generic D&D well over and over when they'd rather be working in different settings and under different systems. Making a living out of creativity when most of the audience only wants to hear the greatest hits over and over never stops being a struggle.



Letters: First letter reinforces the cynicism from the editorial, saying they only publish adventures that tie-in to new products as a means of making more money through cross-promotion. Hardly. If it were purely about money, they'd all move to the mainstream book or computer game industry, where they could earn several times as much with their skillsets. They do actually want you to like the things they come up with and expand on them with more adventures, not just publish one or two bits of in-house support and then have them fall by the wayside.

Second thanks them for offering constructive criticism even when they reject submissions. It means people are much more likely to try again. They don't want the magazine to devolve into a nepotistic circle of the same few people getting published over and over. (although things will naturally trend that way long-term even if you actively fight it.) That would not be good for their output on a creative level.

Finally, feedback from a group that played through Asflag's Unintentional Emporium and suffered a TPK. Despite technically failing, it was still great fun to play. It's not really about the winning or losing, it's the journey that really counts. Don't feel you have to make adventures too nice, just make sure the challenges are interesting, not just waves of undead or deathtraps with no clues on how to avoid them.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 38: Nov/Dec 1992



part 2/5



A Blight on the Land: Crop failure in Tethyr? Monster invasions and revolting peasants as people compete for what food there is left? This sounds like a job for the Company of Eight! Unfortunately, it's too big a job for them to tackle alone, so they deputise a mission to your group. Clear the route to Ithmong so they can get emergency aid there. Seems simple enough, right? Of course not. A certain evil organisation who's name shall go unspoiled but is easy enough to guess has been using summoning & mind control to add to the chaos and further their long-term political schemes. They won't take kindly to interference. Your wilderness wanderings will lead you to clues, and then right in the middle of the region of greatest monster density is a suspiciously untouched mansion filled with wizards & baatezu. Beating them will reveal correspondence that connects them to a well-regarded local politician who is likely to wind up king if not exposed. Presumably you'll want to do that and save the day for good. That presumably is doing a lot of work here. There's a lot of boxed text in this one that presumes the PC's reactions to events, rather than letting them roleplay it out themselves, and not following it will mess up the adventure pretty easily. So this falls into the irritatingly linear category, designed to tell a specific story with potential long-term metaplot implications, and taking the wrong route means you have to make up everything afterwards yourself. Not a particularly satisfying way to start things off. I have to deal with enough of that in Polyhedron.
 
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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 38: Nov/Dec 1992



part 3/5



Things that go Bump in the Night: Contrary to what you might assume from the title, this is not a horror one, and also involves a fair bit of politics. But unlike the previous adventure, it's one with no definite right solution that gives the PC's free reign to solve it in multiple example ways, plus plenty of other not so optimal ones. An elven forest vanquished an assault of hobgoblins many centuries ago, but now the abandoned fort they used has started making weird noises in the night. Being superstitious and not wanting to lose their long lifespans to energy draining undead, they reluctantly hire adventurers to deal with it, once again doing the thing where they blindfold people coming in so they can't give away the precise location of their forest home. Turns out that while there are a few undead in there, they're not the main challenge, which is the complexities of the interactions between the various fae creatures of the forest; firbolgs, spriggan, treants, a non-evil drow (with a unicorn mount, so any adventurers who are paying attention should realise something is up), plus some lost adventurers and the less intelligent forest animals to spice things up. Trying to hack and slash your way through everything will have you outmatched and worn down pretty quickly, so your best course of action is to talk to people, try and get the more whimsical fae creatures to stop pranking you long enough to listen, find out what everyone wants and reach a compromise solution that'll only mildly annoy everyone. (or please almost everyone, and then go kill those remaining pains in the ass. :p ) There's plenty of depth here to work with, and they list the playtesters at the end as well, which is definitely a promising sign that it'll hold up for a good few sessions whichever decisions the PC's make. As long as they can deal with a moderate level of whimsy and don't try to kill everything, this one could turn out pretty well.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 38: Nov/Dec 1992



part 4/5



Pandora's Apprentice: The short adventure is a little too long to fit in the side treks category, but still well less than a session. A young wizard's apprentice put on a ring of contrariness from her master's collection while she was alone, and is now acting like a megalomaniacal naughty word, stealing any magical items she can get her hands on. The PC's fall prey to her cute little girl act, then while pursuing her run across one of her friends who informs them that this is thoroughly out of character behaviour for her, discouraging them from going full murderhobo. (If they hadn't already realised that summarily killing a little girl in an urban scenario is the kind of thing that'd get the full weight of the law thrown at them.) Once they follow her back to the tower she'll use phase doors, a wand of wonder, and various nonmagical traps to give PC's the slip, steal more stuff, and make over the top wannabe archvillain speeches. Basically, it's Home Alone as a D&D scenario. Whimsical and low in lethality, but could be very annoying indeed when used on the wrong party, or over very quickly if they're smarter than Harry & Marv and roll well. Not really to my tastes, but at least it's not linear like it's Polyhedron counterparts. Hopefully it fits in at least someone's sweet spot of lighthearted gaming scenarios.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 38: Nov/Dec 1992



part 5/5



Horror's Harvest: Straight from one adventure that's a direct rip-off of a specific movie to another. The cover story is indeed Invasion of the Body Snatchers transferred to Ravenloft, although whether the doppleganger plants are real aliens from another D&D world captured by the dark powers for crimes of their own or just monsters created wholecloth for the lols remains a mystery. Either way, the small Falkovnian village of Delmunster is suffering from a new person each night undergoing a radical personality shift, and then equally radical weight loss over the next couple of weeks as the plant sucks their lifeforce away, all the while trying to pretend everything is fine, or at least throw people off the scent about the precise cause of the problem. Any passing adventurers who's disappearance wouldn't be missed are prime targets for possession, since that'll slow the depopulation rate. On top of that, there's a few more familiar gothic horror monsters hanging around to round out the challenges and keep things feeling suitably Ravenloftish. It's all quite interesting and atmospheric, with plenty of little setting details for the GM to riff off of, and the main thing that'll decide if it goes down well with your group is how players react to their characters being taken over and asked to secretly turn against the rest of the party. How will they balance their desire for secrecy, deteriorating physical condition, and absolute refusal to leave the area of the plant's mind-control to keep the others off balance until everyone is taken over? Basically, if they enjoy PvP, this one looks like it could be an absolute hoot, giving you tons of roleplaying and puzzle solving opportunities and relatively little combat (since you'll probably want to free them from control, not kill them). If they don't, it'll flop. Hopefully you know your group well enough to know which category they fall into.



Three adventures that are fairly low on combat and high on roleplaying here, which is welcome, but making multiple adventures that are directly derivative of specific movies rather than mixing & matching ideas is somewhat less so. That path may seem easy as a writer, but if you don't add new details to account for the players making different decisions from the film, it risks plot railroads very easily. Let's see if next issue does anything similar, or they'll manage to mix things up once again to keep the variety up.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 78: December 1992



part 1/5



34 pages. I know being merely a zine means they have a lower art budget, but this is barely a sketch. Who are these silhouetted adventurers, and what lies up the stairs? Could be virtually anything. Let's hope the interior has a little more time and detail put into it.



The Third Degree: They haven't done RPG reviews for a good 3 years now, so the job is wide open to anyone who can be bothered to submit them. Jeff Cisneros takes a shot at it, using the framing schtick of a private investigator. (as would later appear in many reviews by notable forumite Dan Davenport) His first case is the Gamma World 4e corebook. His conclusions pretty much agree with the stated intentions in the previews, that it's a big improvement over the previous editions in organisation and worldbuilding, much more able to support long-term campaigns. Now the challenge is just finding enough people who want to play it to make up a group. A pretty blandly positive start. Will he stick around long enough to stamp his own personality on proceedings, give some more critical responses and tackle some more obscure products? Tune in to future issues to see what cases he takes on next!



Notes From HQ: As usual, they talk about how Gen Con went a few months late, due to the way their production schedule works. Thankfully they don't have to repeat their complaints about flaky judges, although more people signing up is always welcome. The Spelljammer and Ravenloft tournaments did pretty decently, but it's the Fluffyquest benefit one, fittingly raising money for guide dogs that really attracted lots of attention, both positive and negative, and they fully intend to have another fluffy scenario ready to inflict upon us next year. I guess having something to love to hate keeps people engaged. Looks like next year will also have plenty to irritate me with then. Oh well, the show must go on.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 78: December 1992



part 2/5



Letters: First letter suggests they could make a regular feature of doing profiles for important RPGA members, preferably spotlighting the unsung heroes rather than already famous game-designers. Sounds like a good idea they could spin out monthly for quite a few years. They'll get right on it.

Second praises their crosswords, logic puzzles & movie reviews. They might not be directly RPG connected, but they make the newszine more entertaining by their presence. They'll keep on doing them for the foreseeable future.

Third is yet another complaint that they do too much AD&D stuff, and not enough of anything else. As ever, they know, and would like to fix that, but can only publish more stuff for other systems if you send it in. Please do!

Fourth is a complaint from an english reader who found the newszine arrived too late to enter a competition. Even making the deadlines a month or two longer would help a good deal with that. But not too long, otherwise people have no sense of urgency, then forget to get around to creating their entries and actually send in fewer submissions than one with a shorter deadline. Another tricky set of variables to balance.

Fifth, someone defending Fluffy from all the haters at Gen Con this year. She got as many boos as cheers when they did the 10th anniversary celebration. How rude! After all she's done to raise money for charity too! Why am I not surprised. Seems like Rick's work is very much a love it or hate it thing, and I'm not alone in finding it irritatingly cheesy, stiflingly linear and not at all what I'm looking for in a RPG scenario. But the people running the RPGA like it, so it's not going anywhere.

Finally, the winner of their award for charitable gaming-related activity this year thanks them, and apologises for being unable to make it to Gen Con and accept the award in person. Thank you for helping us raise money to fight cancer, and see you at a convention next year, hopefully.



Kenderspeak Anyone?: After years of no Dragonlance content, articles two issues in a row? How curious. The lack of previous material to build upon means it's much larger scale and vaguer than the Realms stuff again. Contrary to the title, it doesn't even give us any specific words, being just a single page guide to the various language families you can choose from. I'm pretty sure this info appeared in the Tales of the Lance boxed set released arounds the same time, so this is basically just a promotional excerpt that's of no further use once you've bought the product. Those never cease to be tedious. Once again demonstrating why they'll never catch up, because Dragonlance was always just a few people in the TSR staff telling you specific stories, without the same kind of room for audience contribution the Realms was built with.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 78: December 1992



part 3/5



A Fluffy Wonderland: Christmas based RPG adventures are usually comedic regardless, but a Fluffyquest christmas adventure?! That's just over-icing the cake. Fluffy is not lost or kidnapped this time, but the rest of her canine family, assembling from all over the world for the festive celebration, has been captured while en route, leaving her catatonic with distress. You're going to have to save them, whether you want too or not. As usual for these adventures, this leads you down a linear path filled with puns, references and general wackiness, where your input has very little influence on the overall course of events. Get a bunch of quirky magical items of dubious utility as presents. Ride one horse open sleighs, which leave you open to being pelted with snowballs by mischievous carol singers, face three symbolic christmas ghosts, close harmony singing wolves, popsicle zombies, and the celebration hating snow drow (can you dig it?) that started all this trouble in the first place. If you've played any of the previous instalments, you'll know exactly what you're getting into. As usual, it gives me absolutely no pleasure at all to trudge through this, but apparently a sizeable fraction of the RPGA do really like it. Hopefully now the 10th anniversary is over Fluffy appearances will drop in frequency again. And whether Fluffy will survive the TSR to WotC and 3e changeovers to get a 20th anniversary celebration remains unknown to me at the moment. We'll deal with that when we get there, if it becomes necessary.



1993 Games Decathlon: They've been doing the decathlon for three years now, and see no reason to stop next year. As usual, the rules get a little larger and more complex, giving you a fair amount of flexibility in exactly what you participate in. You can still only get points for participating in 10 events, but they can be picked from several dozen tournament ones in many conventions over the year, 8 different writing competitions, and two service events. The approved conventions do actually include enough international ones that it's not completely unwinnable if you live outside the USA, but it's still definitely easier the closer to the midwest you are. Hopefully the increased flexibility will increase the number of competitors similarly.



The Living City: In issue 75, they did two interlinked establishments owned by people who know each other. Here, they stretch that to three. A trio of adventurers have retired and taken up artistic professions in a big bohemian space in uptown Raven's Bluff. The bard makes musical instruments, unsurprisingly. The thief has become a poet. But it's the fighter that's been the most commercially successful, revealing an unexpected flair for portrait painting that really touches the hearts of the viewers. While they have no particular interest in hitting the road again, they retain more than enough tricks that anyone trying to rob them won't have an easy time. Unlike many of these, there's no teenage kids to worry about/present plot opportunities, but they do have the unresolved question of what happened to the 4th member of their party, lost on their final adventure. If anyone could confirm her life or death (or confirm her death but retrieve & raise the body) they'd be very appreciative, as it continues to weigh on the back of their minds. While not bad, this definitely falls into the more niche end of their setting building, as it'd take a bit of work to get to know them enough to unlock the personal details & side quest, and these artsy things like poetry & portraits aren't the kind of thing most adventuring groups would bother to spend their money on. Good for a few groups then, but ignorable by most parties. Oh well, plenty of alternatives by now, so it's not as if including a few ultra-niche ones is going to hurt. Quite the opposite. The longer they're going, the more niche they have to get to avoid repeating themselves. How much further can they go in this direction before we see complaints in the letters page? Given the rest of the company, I'm sure we can make it at least to 1995 before they become significant. But maybe they'll have some surprises for us. Let's see what next year brings to the living city.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 78: December 1992



part 4/5



The Living Galaxy: Another round of weird example PC's in here, this time taking reader suggestions. They range from bacteria to planet sized, and with all sorts of weird abilities and limitations. The problem, as ever, is coming up for an adventure with a mixed party that makes everyone useful. The fantasy derived ones such as each person playing one head of a multiheaded monster or a group of intelligent magical items seem easier to make work ruleswise than the pure sci-fi ones. Which is the problem this column has faced all along. Fantasy is usually shaped in some way by our desires, while reality is a lot less accommodating. We still don't have robotic limbsuits for intelligent cetaceans to operate on land and go on adventures with us, and that's entirely within the bounds of physics. As usual, there's plenty of good ideas here, but none of them are oven-ready, so you'll need to put in a load of work to make them fit into your game, whatever system it may be. This column would work better if TSR did have an active sci-fi system to focus on and put more specific statblocks into.



The Everwinking Eye: Ed zooms in on Melvaunt this time. While not as unrelentingly unpleasant and treacherous a place to live as Mulmaster, it's still not a particularly nice place for the common folk. Taxation is low, but very strictly enforced, and political influence is openly purchased in a way that would be viewed as corruption in most countries but here is just the standard way of doing business. Good and evil gods are both worshipped openly, and seem to hold about equal importance politically so neither can ban or drive out the other. Basically, this is what happens if you let libertarians get into power. Just enough rules for the state to protect itself from external threats, and then the strong are free to do what they like to the weak as long as it doesn't make too much public mess. They have many expats who made their fortune there, then moved somewhere safer to raise their own families. Nice place for adventurers to visit, with plenty of plots to foil, money to make and fights to be had, but only the baddest mutha:shut yo mouth:s will want to live there full time, particularly during the harsh winters. Could be fun as long as you remember your escape routes. As ever, his ability to write places that feel alive, and give you room to participate shines through. Any of you have stories of your characters time there?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 78: December 1992



part 5/5



Into The Dark: James gets meta again, with a round of films where other films within them play important parts. Whether they actually have characters step out of the screen, or what they're watching merely messes with their minds, this is a fairly effective way to blur the boundaries between reality & fiction and unsettle the viewer, particularly when watching in 3d. There's plenty of different variants of this idea to explore.

The Purple Rose of Cairo has Woody Allen spice up his usual rom-com plot by having the handsome leading man step out from the movie screen, leaving his role empty and the rest of the characters thoroughly confused, while Mia Farrow has to take care of him in the "real" world. What happens when the character meets the actor who plays him, and how will she deal with her romantic feelings for them both? The ending isn't particularly satisfying, but that's what happens when you choose reality over fantasy.

Demons is your typical video nasty, only the monsters on the cinema screen escape and start infecting the people watching, turning into a cascade spawn of gruesome transformations, that as usual would be a lot shorter if people would spend a little less time screaming and standing around like idiots. The effects are decent, but the plot and characterisation is paper thin, so you won't be particularly upset to see the people die.

Demons 2 is the churned out sequel. The acting is a little better, but the plot is even more recycled and derivative, openly stealing whole sequences from other better horror films. Further instalments tried for more originality, but failed messily, getting released under multiple names and being increasingly difficult to find.

Videodrome, on the other hand, has no trouble being found and remembered, although the faint of stomach may not want to do so. The trappings of the corruptive reality warping power of TV may seem a little dated now, but they could be applied just as easily to the internet. The degree to which it maddens you might seem a little quaint to long-term 4chan denizens though. I guess it's the same kind of problem reading lovecraftian works now. Too many deconstructions and parodies, you get to the point where you can't play it straight any more and take it seriously.

The Video Dead is just your basic low budget direct to video flick, only the zombies come out of the TV. Slow, tedious, and not particularly coherent, this is just filler to round out the column's word count, and one to avoid.



Feats of Valor: We finish off with a lighthearted bit of gaming advice that reminds you that even in a hack and slash game, a little roleplaying can really help your survivability. Knowing when to look intimidating and when to look weaker than you are can make the difference between the enemy fleeing or surrendering and fighting to the death. Once you have got a few kills under your belt, a public display of dismembered body parts on a pike is an excellent way to spread your reputation faster and ensure you can charge more for future jobs. Large parties are better than small ones, even if you have to use a little social engineering to get reluctant people to join up. A good mount or pet is worth several people at low levels in both combat capability and increasing your memorability. All pleasingly old-school stuff that reminds you that the rules are not the entirely of your existence and effectiveness in an RPG, and thinking outside the box will really help you live long enough to get to higher levels. Even in tournament railroads, clever use of the equipment you've been given can be the difference between life and death. Don't leave your fate entirely in the hands of the combat dice rolls.



Bloodmoose & Company find the adventurer lifestyle of seeking fortune via hired violence doesn't work too well in the technologically advanced future.



Another issue that it's definitely a relief to finish, due to the heavy packing of fluffy cheesiness that's been casting a shadow over the entire year. Not an era I have any desire to revisit now it's over. Let's head to the next year, and see if the prospect of an election gets them to be a little more focused and serious.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 79: January 1993:



part 1/5



32 pages. A misty arctic scenario is about to be made much worse for the people wandering it by a remorhaz. You might be temporarily saved from frostbite, but if it melts the ground below you then you're in a short race between being scooped up for dinner and hypothermia. Presuming they're bothering to track any of this, and it's not just a mindless combat encounter in whatever railroad they've cooked up for us this month. Time to see what potential rewards braving the winter has to offer.



Notes From HQ: Ah joy. It's one of those occasions where a company does something wildly unpopular, and is forced to back down, only to try and implement the same thing more circumspectly. After many years of saying they want to support other RPG's than AD&D in the RPGA, but not managing more than a small minority of other adventures, they were planning to give up & drop support for non TSR properties entirely. People absolutely hated that idea! So instead, they've merely outsourced the sanctioning of adventures by other companies to said company, forcing them to have an active RPGA liaison if they want to have tournament games count for anything, which rules out all the small companies where everyone's doing this part time. (and adhere to the TSR code of conduct as well, which rules out White Wolf games from being played in the RPGA despite their popularity) The kind of thing that seems likely to have a long term chilling effect on diversity, and accomplish their original intention, just a few years later than they'd originally planned. It's always frustrating when a company shows they have no idea what their userbase wants, and do something self-sabotaging in the pursuit of greater profit. From New Coke to the great Tumblr porn purge, history is littered with examples of this, some walked back, others pursued to the bitter end. Well, that's a pretty depressing way to start the year off. Their bad decisions extend beyond the casual racism and excess of bad comedy railroads. I have a feeling we're going to see quite a few more of them between now and the WotC takeover.



Letters: The first two letters are from recipients of their charity benefit tournaments. In the cruel world of USA medical expenses, every little helps. But even if it saves some individual lives, it doesn't solve the larger scale structural problems. This is why gofundme becomes one of the biggest crowdfunding platforms in the world. It's not that individual people lack compassion, but individual donations pale in efficiency compared to a properly funded national health service.

The third one is one of the many people angry about them trying to drop non TSR tournament adventures. Since they gave their response the page before, this feels like the wrong way around. Another casualty of the nonlinear publication production process locking certain things in long before others.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 79: January 1993



part 2/5



Take a Byte: They've been promoting their novels in here for years. Now they decide to do something similar for TSR's licensed computer games, although since those are higher effort to produce than books, this column definitely won't be appearing every month. They start off with their upcoming trio of Dark Sun games, designed to take characters from 3rd to 20th level through multiple adventures using the same game engine. They spend a lot of time selling the improvements in size & visual quality over previous computer adaptions of D&D, which as usual look risible in hindsight. It fits on 6 floppy disks or one CD and requires 2 megabytes of RAM! Characters have 29 frames of animation! Another case where I'm quite happy to live in a future where the exponential expansion of computer technology has levelled off, and you can enjoy both hyperrealistic AAA games and 2d indies and the gameplay is the important thing, not how many polygons and ray tracing effects you can cram onscreen. Does the gameplay of these hold up in hindsight?



The Everwinking Eye: After briefly noting the Melvauntian propensity for sado-masochism, Elminster decides that's enough dwelling on their personal habits for a family friendly publication, and heads off to Thentia instead. Initially things don't seem that different. Both are low tax places where there are few laws other than don't mess with the flow of trade, which is punished very harshly. Thentia does at least seem to be a little more straightforward, responding to external threats by purchasing large quantities of mercenaries rather than magical espionage & blackmail. Their favourite god is Selune rather than Loviatar, and there are a decent amount of nonevil characters in positions of power. It seems a somewhat more pleasant place for an adventurer to make their base of operations than the previous couple of cities they've covered, although once you're high enough level for teleportation and other fast travel, you'll still probably want to spend winter in warmer climates. Another fairly interesting entry that shows how the various moonseas cities can seem superficially similar to outsiders travelling through, but have all sorts of nuances if you spend more time there and get to know people. Another pretty decent instalment adding more of the depth the Realms is known for, and their other settings can't compete with.



Evansburg: The adventure this issue is a Gamma World one, interestingly enough. Only the second one that's appeared in the newszine too. But while the first one was wacky to the point where it was near unusable in a regular campaign, this is basically just a D&D adventure converted to a different system. A whole load of kids have been disappearing in the poor part of town. The PC's are asked to deal with it. After a bit of investigation, they track things down to the sewers, where they find out it's giant mutant cockroaches. Fight them, destroy the nest of eggs before they hatch and go from a few adults to hundreds of hungry babies, and save the day. It's only 4 pages long, so it's one that will fit into their standardised 4 hour game slots with loads of room to spare. As usual for them, it's almost completely linear, although it's not actually that jokey, which is mildly surprising and shows how much they're trying to make 4e a more serious game. If it were a D&D one it would merely be underwhelming and formulaic. i'm inclined to be slightly more forgiving because at least they're trying to support other systems, but it's still on the mediocre end of ok. They could do so much better.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 79: January 1993



part 3/5



Bestiary continues straight on from the adventure with a couple more Gamma World monsters. Even the plants can't be trusted once they have enough radiation in them.

Claptraps are giant venus fly traps. They can blend surprisingly well into thick vegetation. Step on them and you'll have a very bad day being slowly digested unless you have friends to help get you out. Nothing too surprising really, but a pain nonetheless.

Horl Ep are mutated pines that use their very pointy cones as missiles. If they get stuck in you, there's a distinct chance they'll germinate, which gives gives you short term fast healing as they boost your metabolism before a painful but pleasantly pine fresh smelling chestburster situation takes place. People have tried to cultivate them to take advantage of this or their guarding properties, but it usually ends tragically. Whether Weyland-Yutani survived this particular apocalypse or not, the human impulses behind their business practices remain universal.



The Living City: This month's instalment is not technically in Raven's Bluff, being a restaurant on a pier just outside the city limits. The Painted Boat is not technically a boat either, although it has appropriately nautical decor and serves a heavily seafood based menu. Since they're already bending a bunch of rules here, it's no surprise to find the place is run by a group of mid-level rogues (and a wizard) who are well equipped to settle things personally with any troublemakers without involving the city watch. The entertainment is similarly dubious, with plenty of animal fights, fire-breathers and other stuff that would fall afoul of regulations in the modern world. (no dancing bears though, as they wouldn't fit with the low ceilings) They also have an even more legally dubious side job as shipwreck salvagers, and are not above making the waters nearby even more hazardous with rocks & fake lighthouses so they have more wrecks to loot. That definitely gives PC's a reason to come into conflict with them if involved with legitimate trading & deliveries, or an example to follow if they're more underhanded sorts as well. So there's plenty of potential for interesting fights here, combining darkness & fog, unsteady shipboard footing and swimming in a way that would put unprepared PC's at a big disadvantage even if they're of the right level overall for the challenge. It's definitely on the nastier end of the locations in here, but that just makes it all the more useful, between the well developed NPC's and their new magical items. Without dangers, what are adventurers even for?



The Living Galaxy: Roger is much more specific than usual, recommending science magazines Ad Astra, Astronomy and Discover as good sources of game ideas, and then going through their output from the past year for particular articles from each month. Amazingly enough, all three of these magazines are still going and have functional online archives, so you can actually get hold of the articles referenced legally even now. That definitely puts this in the above average category in terms of usability and is a reminder that not every company has a history as turbulent as TSR's. Science may make new discoveries as the years go by, but it doesn't often have edition wars where entire fields are discarded and replaced with new ones. Not that these magazines won't have their own eras of changing editorial focus, with connoisseurs being able to read through the archives and say which were good and bad years, (anyone out there willing to take on one of these as a Let's Read?) but the changes will be more in tone and formatting than whole new rulesets. This means they'll stay relevant and useful for longer. Nice to have another glimpse at the outside world in here.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 79: January 1993



part 4/5



The Art of Winning: Skip makes another attempt to increase engagement for their competitions by reminding us that it's not actually that hard to win as long as you follow all the instructions carefully. They don't actually get that many entries on most of them, and a significant percentage get disqualified by not following basic procedural details, so if you can come up with a complete idea, write it down coherently and then give it decent formatting (and not overegged with tons of fiddly fonts and color changes that wouldn't transfer to the newszine's printing process anyway) before sending it in you've actually got a decent chance. The bar seems so low when you phrase it like that, yet many people still manage to fall short. This all leads up to this month's competition, which is quite a significant one. They're finally trying their hand at a Living Gamma World location, and the details of the first few submissions will set the boundaries for all the ones that follow. Get in on the ground floor, and you could make a big difference! Will they finally be able to give a non D&D system a decent amount of airtime and worldbuilding for a few years at least, or will it fall at the starting gate and go nowhere? This definitely has my interest. Looking forward to finding out what happens next.



Adding To The Anvil: Another of those topics that turned up repeatedly in Dragon and makes me sigh every time I have to deal with it. Someone thinks nonweapon proficiencies aren't realistic enough and splits them into more, more specific ones, in the process increasing the total number you need to really get comprehensive knowledge of all the aspects of a thing and making it more inaccessible to PC's. This time it's weapon crafting they're turning their attention too, separating out blacksmithing, whitesmithing, and knowing how to properly add jewels to the armour & weapons you craft. This will not improve matters in the vast majority of campaigns, and is a whole load of wasted effort for me, particularly after having seen subsequent editions go the opposite direction and pare down the complexity of the skill system without affecting the overall degree of fun. The fundamentals are sufficiently poorly designed that no amount of tinkering with the surface elements can fix them. The new kit at the end is particularly bad mechanically, adding a minor benefit in crafting magic weapons that higher level wizards can do anyway, at the cost of an across the board -15% chance at learning new spells. Really not worth it.
 

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